Vipassana Meditation: 5 Things Everyone Should Know

Now that I’ve been practising Vipassana meditation for a few years, I’ve come to learn a few things.  Like what people say when you mention a 10 day silent meditation course..

  • Not talk for 10 days, I could never do that!
  • Only 2 meals a day, I’d be starving
  • No way could I get up at 4.30 every day
  • Sounds like some kind of weirdoes cult
  • What, no mobile, no email?? F*%k that!

But before we get into what Vipassana is and isn’t, let’s back up a bit and give a very brief overview of what it entails.

What Is Vipassana?

Vipassana meditation is the original, pure style of meditation as practised by Buddha in 6th Century BC in India that’s been passed down over the centuries from teacher to student.

vipassana beginners tips

Cross the legs, clear the mind!

To start practising Vipassana everyone must sit a 10 day residential course.  Why 10 days?  Well to understand the technique properly takes time and to get the desired benefits from Vipassana, you must practice correctly.  This 10 day period teaches you how to do that.

And for the 10 days…

  • no talking, mobiles, reading, watching TV or listening to music
  • food and lodgings are provided free of charge
  • participants must agree to stick to the daily schedule (up at 4.30, meditate in various sessions all day, eat breakfast at 6.30, lunch at 11, fruit at 16.30, bed 21.30) and not leave the meditation centre

So you can see why people might freak out at the thought of it ;-)

But, there is a method in the madness: after the 10 days, Vipassana meditators often start to look at things a bit differently, viewing themselves and the world from a fresh perspective.

For me it’s been an amazing technique that’s helped me to keep balanced, be mindful of others and be happier in my day to day life.  It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and sitting cross legged in a quiet room for an hour a day is now part of my daily routine.

And with all that time to contemplate stuff, I’ve come up with a list of 5 things that everyone should know about Vipassana – particularly if you’re contemplating trying a 10 day course.

1. Vipassana promotes mastery of the mind and clarity of thought

Vipassana is all about observing yourself, looking inside your own body and mind for solutions.  As part of this process you gain an understanding of why sometimes you don’t have any control over things like losing your temper, getting nervous or making dumb knee jerk reactions.  Through the self observation of meditation you gradually start to gain mastery of these emotions, resulting in greater clarity of thought and more balanced behaviour in many every day situations.

2. It’s completely free – both financially and from ulterior motives

When I first considered sitting a Vipassana course, I, like many people, wondered if it was a cult or scam.  One of the main things that convinced me otherwise was the fact that it is completely free to everyone, know matter how many courses you sit, where in the world you sit them or how long they are.  Naturally, donations are accepted, but the choice is always 100% yours, with no pressure ever being exerted.

3. Not talking is not that hard

Everyone thinks that not talking for 10 days will be impossible!  But after the course, most people realise that it didn’t really bother them.  Strange as it sounds, once you get started on the technique, there’s no time for talking…

4. Vipassana is not a religion

There’s no deity worship in Vipassana, no concept of deferring to a God or an almighty being.
You focus only on the internal – you hold all the answers to your questions, you are your own salvation, you don’t look to any external power.  So it’s it completely non secular and open to people of any religion or faith, plus of course those of us who don’t hold any religious beliefs.

5. Vipassana wants you to ‘be happy’

goenka vipassana

Goenka, the master teacher of Vipassana

A key mantra of Vipassana is ‘be happy’.  Of course ‘happiness’ is very subjective concept, but the ultimate aim of Vipassana is to help you live a happy life that doesn’t harm you or others.  And if you’re happy, you spread happiness to others around you, creating a virtuous circle of…well, happiness!

Vipassana courses are held completely free of charge all over the world in dozens of official Vipassana centres.  If anyone wants to charge you for Vipassana, don’t pay, it’s a con and not Vipassana.

For more information on Vipassana in your country, check the official site.

Or please do ask me any questions via the comments section below or email me at

info@accidentalhealthnut.com

and I’ll be happy to help– I’ve sat three 10 day course, a few shorter ones and have been practising every day (almost!) for the last three years or so.

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22 Responses to “Vipassana Meditation: 5 Things Everyone Should Know”

  1. Barrie Haubrich September 1, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    Hey there, amazing post! I will keep following your homepage ;)

  2. Margaret April 19, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Hello,

    Thanks for your article! I was wondering if you suggest any type of preparation before the course (i.e. meditating for a certain number of hours a day) just to prepare for the 10 days, or Vipassana has its own method that will be learned once you arrive?

    • The Accidental Health Nut May 6, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

      Hi Margaret
      I wouldn’t actively prepare anything, just go in with an open mind and a willingness to listen, learn and work diligently for the 10 days. Vipassana certainly has its own way of explaining the method – and understanding this is all part of the course and the journey….Dan

  3. Trevor Banerjee May 6, 2012 at 2:57 am #

    Hey mate, just wanted to say that I really appreciate your post here on Vipassana. I did my retreat on the 4th of Jan this year in Igatpuri, the first Vipassana centre in the world and prior to getting there found that I starting to get quite anxious. I was not sure if it was for me and I definitely was not sure if I could handle it. I looked it up online just to check the general consensus.
    A friend advised me not to do so as everyone’s experience is different and everyone gets something different out of the 10 days.
    In saying that, your blog is good since it sticks to the facts and states the benefits without really selling it.
    Needless to say, just as you’ve stated in your blog, if is for people who are in that space where they are seeking more clarity and focus within. It is for people who want to control their own minds rather than their minds controlling them.I could not have worded it better. Thank you Accidental Health Nut! :D

    • mariaelenaloves May 23, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

      How can I be sure it is not a cult? I am really interested but nervous. How does it differ from TM?

      • The Accidental Health Nut August 28, 2012 at 1:24 am #

        I don’t really know about TM, but as I understand it TM is all about focussing on a mantra or statement in your mind, whereas Vipassana focuses on the breath and sensations in your body. It DEFINITELY isn’t a cult; you can sit a course then never hear from the Vipassana people again if you choose. Vipassana is all about free will and mastery of your mind – the complete opposite of a cult. And if you like it’s completely free, absolutely no pressure if exerted on people to pay (though most people, myself included, do donate some money at the end of the course as the experience is so rewarding).

  4. Moira May 15, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    Just finished my first course today! Hard going but so worth hanging in there. All I would add to your comments is, don’t give up part way through the course, see it through and reap the benefits.

    • The Accidental Health Nut May 22, 2012 at 11:27 am #

      Great advice Moira – as you say it’s tough if you hit the wall, but the satisfaction when you break thru it sure outlives any pain – pain is temporary, victory is permanent!!

  5. Lynda June 21, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    I am about to attend the 10 day Vipassana retreat and you were right about all the negative comments. It’s sad we live in such a world where we think we can’t live without our external influences. I am truly looking forward to discovering who I am.
    I will let you know how I go after the retreat.
    Thank you for the information and advice it is nice to have it before I enter in to this amazing experience.
    Lynda

  6. merle August 17, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    Hi.
    I am very keen to do the course and have wanted to for years. The fear that is stopping me is physical. I get excruciating pain in my back and bottom when sitting for long (especially hard surfaces.) Numbness/pins and needles as well.
    Any thoughts on this?

    • The Accidental Health Nut August 28, 2012 at 1:19 am #

      Well the discomfort is to some extent part of the experience – learning to control our aversion to the discomfort. But this is something that’s very easy to say, very difficult to do. Some centres allow students with medical problems/stiffness to use cushions, supports, stools or even sit in chairs. The first course I sat I used quite a bit of cushioning to support my legs, then the last one I did I only needed one cushion to sit on, so you do get used to it. I’d suggest contacting your local centre and discussing it with them, most are quite helpful with things like this. Good luck!

  7. chris neglia August 20, 2012 at 4:42 am #

    Nice, fair article. I’ve done the 10 day sit myself, twice, once as a new student once as an old student and server in the kitchen. Kitchen service was more difficult because you had to interact minimally in order to accomplish a task while also remaining in deep meditation. At any rate, I feel Vipassana has changed my life. I got a glimpse from my first sit the relationship between thought, intention, reaction and sensation. If someone says something mean to you, suddenly, because of Vipassana you simultaneously have the awareness of a bad sensation on your body. It puts you deeply in tune with your mind-body as one, and shows you how to change the habit pattern from a reflexive, reactionary response to a observational, composed one. In this way, it helps you find a peace in life in constantly practicing equanimity to sufferings in life that are inevitable. Sh*t happens, but you don’t need to stand there in the dung crying. You can just look at it and say, ‘yep’ and move on.

    • Rabbit December 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

      I think you just said the thing that will convince me to go on Sunday. Thank you

  8. Che Shankar August 23, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    yeah,sure i have been practicing since three years,metta

  9. Nikita Thakker September 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    Vipassana meditation is very helpfull… first 3 days are very crucial as the rest of the meditation depends on how hard have you put in first 3 days… Its very easy there are instructions to follow in English & local Languages also. My mom had done this course and she had told me not to miss even a single breath unattended. If anyone will complete the 10 day course it will be a great victory and the happiest day in your life.
    After effects of this course were as follows…

    You can have a mastery over your mind.. No more you are a slave of your mind.. you can train your mind as per your willingness and desire in the path of progress.. I had lost 25kgs weight and dint eat fried or junk for alomost a year as my craving for toxic or junk or fried was almost died.. I achieved my target weight too :-)

    No anger, only calmness… helps you to make good decisions, improves your efficiency at work / business, Increases your concentration power in studies… only benifits and befinits :-)

    After 3 days of annapana you will be tought to do vipassana on 4th day and thats when you have done very sincere anapanna you will be able to do vipassana and will get benifits. In vipassana you will get instructions one by one and you will observe all sensations all over your body… gross sensation then settle sensation it will keep changing and the time will come where obseving one by one all sensations there will be only settle sensations left in your body… whatever sensation one feels one has to just observe it objectively, bad / good / settle any sensation, one has to just watch it with closed eyes objectively… watch is with the law of equaminity.. This is when you dont react to these sensations you purify your mind continuosly unlike which earlier we were always reacting to the sensations, we never felt or could feel them earlier, if we like something then there was craving, if dint like anything then aversaion for any thing could be feelings, eatings habbits etc… the moment we like or dislike body forms some sensation in body continously on based of our likes and dislikes recorded in past.. This forms our nature and dependence on some old happits or sanskaras which are difficult to change.
    This is what we change here by not reacting to them in this meditation, this meditation is so pure that it makes your mind so sharp that you can observe all sensations through out your body… one would have only always heard of the vibratons of vibes, and there is no solidity, its all there in science… here you will experience it.

    one has to follow some rules, but ofcourse that is to help you to meditate and concentrate as this a deep meditation technique to learn this one has to follow the rules else there will be a lot of difficulty in the meditation.. for ex one has to observe noble silence with co meditators, ofcourse if needed one can talk to teachers or staff thats allowed… this is to help us in concentrate as otherwise one will think of the person with whom one has interaction, that persons face will come in front of you while meditating..
    The whole purpose of following the rules is that you can learn the meditation technique.

    There is total segeration of male and female areas, even the dinning, staying and meditation hall. there are only female servers for female area and only male staff for male areas.

    Vipassana is now taught even in the prisons of US & India, so that they have a better life and they can live in freedom in prison also. Vipassana has a widespead in many countries. India goverment gives paid leaves for goverment employee’s for 12 days for one who attends the vipassana course.

    I have completed 3, 10 days residential courses in Igatpuri.

    All the best. if you have any query you can email me on nikita_t_thakkar@yahoo.co.in

    Best Regards,
    Nikita Thakker.

  10. Theresa Beaver October 2, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    Hi, I loved what you had to say, and I wish I had ten days I could get away to do the course. But instead I found a website (www.vipassanadhura.com/howto.htm) that actually gave quite detailed technique instructions. I have been practicing it on my own and I am really enjoying it. But I noticed in your article that you say ‘To start practising Vipassana everyone must sit a 10 day residential course’. Until I have time off from work to take the course, can’t I still benefit from doing it on my own. What are your thoughts?

    • The Accidental Health Nut January 9, 2013 at 2:47 am #

      Hi Theresa, in Vipassana they say you need to sit the course in order to fully understand the technique and get the real benefits from it. Personally, once I’d sat my first course that sentiment made total sense, as being immersed in the technique for 10 days means you have no choice but to work with the technique and learn what it can offer.

  11. Tyson M October 10, 2012 at 3:39 am #

    Thanks, great post.

    I was thinking that vipassanna meditation might be able to help me focus in generall on a daily basis. I am constantly disctracted and always worried about the future.

    Is there a center someone could recommended that I could visit on my first trip to India?

  12. prasad.BS December 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Hi…… guys…….I’m posting from the Land of Dhamma. Yes where it’s born India… 2600 years ago.. By Bhagavan gouthama the Budda

    and nothing to say anything about it….. just listen to guruji’s wordings as the Audio play’s on
    and u will find Ur self In Ur inner world

    TC

    “B” HpY:) Always

  13. Karleen Simerson February 7, 2013 at 2:55 am #

    Vipassana Meditation literally means to observe the breath. By practicing Vipassana one eventually becomes the master of his or her own mind. During the meditation on the breath in the body, we look inward and gradually we become masters our own emotions. This results in a much greater clarity of thought processes and behaviors we display in our every day lives. By focusing on the body’s internal environment, it opens a door for us to see the true nature of our body and mind. We remain in the present moment as we observe the breath and eventually the mind does not wander into the past or future. When the mind becomes still and silent our awareness of the true reality of ourselves blossoms and we are no longer prisoners of our suffering. A suffering mind is always grasping, wanting, seeking attachment, worrying and emotional. Vipassana Meditation teaches us that we no longer need to cling to these negative mental states and opens the door to true happiness and profound mental peace.;

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  14. Stiljan February 9, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    I am from Europe in Albania and there is no Vipassana here in our country.
    So normally the question is ? Js it possible for some one to learn Vipassana alone by himself only from what he can learn from internet ?

    Thank you in advance

    • The Accidental Health Nut April 21, 2013 at 6:30 am #

      Hey – in order to learn the technique correctly, and understand it properly so that you get real value from your practice, a 10 day course is necessary. Check the main vipassana website for more details as to why, and also nearby courses – http://www.dhamma.org/en/bycountry/eu/. Maybe a vipassana holiday is in order?! Cheers, Dan

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